US law enforcement officials announced a $20 million reward Thursday for the newest member of the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list, Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero.
Caro Quintero, a senior leader in the Sinaloa cartel, was charged with conspiring to murder Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena Salazar in 1985 as part of a continuing criminal enterprise in a federal indictment unsealed Thursday in Brooklyn.
Caro Quintero is “considered one of the Mexican godfathers of drug trafficking,” FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said at a news conference. “Caro Quintero remains in hiding and we need the public’s help in finding this violent fugitive who is currently a menace to society.”
DEA Special Agent Camarena Salazar was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in retaliation for a raid in 1984 of Caro Quintero’s 2,500-acre marijuana farm by Mexican authorities, the DEA said.
Caro Quintero, whose exact age is not known but is believed to be in his 50s or 60s, is accused in the indictment of trafficking methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana through last year.
In a recently released video interview, Caro Quintero appears as an old man and claims that attempts to arrest him are “misplaced vengeance” – “conveniently rewriting history,” said the DEA’s acting administrator, Robert Patterson.
“He’s not just an old man trying to live out his final days. He’s an individual that continues to run a criminal organization,” Patterson said.
The hefty reward is sponsored by the State Department’s Narcotics Rewards Program and is among its highest offers, according to James Walsh, a deputy assistant secretary.
Caro Quintero had been jailed in Mexico for his role in the murder but was released on a technicality in 2013, and he quickly returned to the drug trade, Bowdich said.
Bowdich declined to discuss the “number of efforts underway” to find Caro Quintero, but he is believed to be in Mexico, Bowdich said.
Some 484 out of the 518 fugitives on the top 10 list have been captured or found since its inception in 1950.